Tuesday, 16 April 2013


Alan George, Robert Neil and John Neil
As one of the UK’s leading suppliers of architectural ironmongery and garage doors, Doorfit is a familiar name to anyone in the industry and is celebrating a significant birthday this year, with 60 years of trading now under its belt.

To have been in business for six decades is a remarkable achievement, but as Sales Director Robert Neil recounts, the company was built on very solid foundations: 
“The business was started by my father John Neil and his brother George back in 1953,” explains Robert. “They had both served in the Second World War and came back to their home in Quinton, Birmingham, to find work in local industry. My father found a position with Goodyear and George took a job with a builders merchant, but they were both keen to start their own business – they just needed to find the right sector.” 
With George Neil already experienced in specification sales of architectural ironmongery, the brothers decided this would be the area in which to launch their fledgling company. The extensive re-building programmes that were springing up all over the West Midlands following the bombing attacks of the war meant the construction industry offered a secure future. 
Doorfit Directors: Philip, John and Robert Neil
 The name Doorfit was coined and in March 1953 the brothers started trading out of Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. The turnover for the first year was £9000 and during these early years the brothers both lived with their parents, who agreed to waive the rent for a year or two to help them get the business established. 
“It was a company founded on sound financial sense and both brothers were careful to make sure as much money as possible was kept in Doorfit,” recounts Robert. “My father even remembers a conversation with their accountant after the first year of trading, when the matter of wages was discussed - after they had told him they had not drawn any income and were living purely on savings the somewhat bemused accountant thought for a moment and said ‘I’m not sure the Revenue Department will accept that answer’!” 
In fact, it was completely true and in an age where credit from banks was very hard to come by, the brothers managed on their savings for as long as they possibly could before finally drawing a wage from the business.
Birmingham Architectural Ironmongery Showroom
 This careful approach paid off and soon Doorfit was an established and respected company, acting as an agent selling architectural ironmongery and sliding door gear on behalf of a number of major brands, including Henderson, Yale, Chubb, Union and Newman Tonks. The next big step came when an existing supplier, PC Henderson, asked the brothers if they would take on its new range of garage doors. From that point onwards, garage boors became an integral part of the Doorfit business, although it also represented something of a challenge, as there was the question of how to store garage doors in the Victorian terraced house that was then Doorfit’s base; some minor adjustments had to be made! A key figure in the development of the Garage Door Division was Alan George, who later became a Director of Doorfit and founder member of the Association of Garage Door Specialists. Alan is still with the company after 50 years and, unsurprisingly, is the longest serving member of staff. 
Despite growing steadily over the years, the company has also been through its fair share of trials and tribulations, including a damaging fire in 1976 that ultimately resulted in a move to custom-built premises in Heaton Street in 1979. The premises have since been extended to meet the needs of the expanding business, but Doorfit has remained in the same location ever since.
Birmingham Garage Doors Showroom
 George Neil sadly passed away in May 1980, but John continues to run Doorfit along with Robert and other son Philip, who both became Directors in 2000. Latterly, Doorfit has diversified into locksmith services by offering high security master key systems and in 2002 became a more substantial player in this market after buying local locksmith JHS Security. 
With sixty years of successful trading behind them, Robert Neil believes that there will be many more Doorfit anniversaries to celebrate: “This company was founded as a family business with a solid work ethic and we remain so to this day,” he says, “so while many things have changed since 1953 our philosophy remains the same and we are looking forward to the next six decades with confidence!”

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